Deuteronomy


Deuteronomy 26-28 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He rewards those who obey His commandments

Parents have been using the whole naughty or nice list of Santa’s for a long time to exact obedience and good behavior from their children for a few weeks leading up to Christmas.  I haven’t met anyone who was emotionally scarred for life after learning all this good behavior was for an imaginary figure that existed in the minds of conniving parents, but I guess the potential is there.

As a parent, I always believed in rewarding good behavior and punishing disobedience, but many today have a different viewpoint.  Some think that punishment is too degrading and that rewarding some children and not others may cause a lack of self-esteem in those unrewarded. The thought of raising a generation of children who do not understand that there are consequences that will follow their actions is frightening to me.  Our scripture today leaves no doubt in my mind that God is all over the idea of rewarding obedience and punishing disobedience. 

@ Deuteronomy 28
If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully keep all his commands that I am giving you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of the world.” (1)  As Israel stood at the gateway of promise into the land of their dreams, God put before them a challenge.   Tucked in between many curses that would result from disobedience to God’s law are 14 incredible verses of blessing for the nation of Israel if they would keep His commandments.  Rewards and punishments.

Moses went on to declare blessings over towns, fields, children, crops, herds, and flocks.  God would conquer their enemies and fill their storehouses with prosperity.  They would be powerful and respected among the nations.  All this would be theirs if they obeyed God’s commandments.  “If you listen to these commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today, and if you carefully obey them, the Lord will make you the head and not the tail, and you will always be on top and never at the bottom. You must not turn away from any of the commands I am giving you today, nor follow after other gods and worship them.” (13-14)  But isn’t that exactly what the nation of Israel did!  They threw away the promise of all these rewards for the worship of other gods.  Because of their disobedience, they eventually lost their nation and freedom to Babylon.

The rewards and curses of Deuteronomy 28 are relevant to all lives and nations.  I believe we have come dangerously close to throwing away the blessing of the Lord through our worship of other gods. May we learn from the mistakes that Israel made.  As New Testament people, even more is at stake. “For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)  God’s rewards for those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and obey His commandments are more numerous than this blog could contain.

Consider Philippians 4:19, “And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”  Jesus said, speaking of His followers, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10)  “When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love…I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!” (John 15:10-11)  And one day we will experience His reward of eternal life, “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Excessive joy, provision, God’s continual love, abundant life and countless other rewards here on earth and then eternal life in Heaven!  I don’t know, I just can’t think of any desire or disobedient act that is worth the risk of losing any of it.  I want all the rewards that come with my obedience to God’s commandments.  God’s nice list, if you will, the list of the redeemed, is the Lamb’s Book of Life, and that’s the list I want to be on! 

Moving Forward: I’m looking forward to walking in His blessing and reward today, obeying His commands and listening to His voice. 

Tomorrow @ Nehemiah 10-13

Deuteronomy 23-25 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He desires that we bless those who serve us with generous hearts

I don’t think any novel has had more movies made from it than the beloved “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, and I enjoy them all.  From the classic black and white version with Alastair Sim to the contemporary Jim Carrey rendition, and every movie in between, I love the story of a changed man named Scrooge.  Not only was the old Scrooge miserly in his giving to the poor, but he was stingy with his faithful employee, Bob Cratchit, as well.  His treatment of Bob was the historical raw deal, overworked and underpaid.  Of course, Dickens wasn’t the first to address the subject of stinginess.  Moses had it covered long before. 

@ Deuteronomy 25
“You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.” (4)  We may not feel edified by this scripture, but keep reading because it’s more relevant than we may think.  Moses was addressing kindness and mercy towards the animals that toiled for the Israelites.  The oxen crushed the grains under their hooves for hours to remove the hard outer shells, and to muzzle them would deprive them of eating some of the grain for themselves.  Solomon wrote, “The godly care for their animals, but the wicked are always cruel.” (Proverbs 12:10)  The sanitary conditions of this aside, even an ox deserves compensation for its labors.

Paul took this simple scripture to another level in the New Testament in I Corinthians 9:9-10, “For the law of Moses says, ‘You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.’  Was God thinking only about oxen when he said this? Wasn’t he actually speaking to us? Yes, it was written for us, so that the one who plows and the one who threshes the grain might both expect a share of the harvest.”

How we treat those who serve us is important to God.  Employees who work for us, those who faithfully minister to us and individuals who make a living off of tips offered in gratitude deserve to share in the harvest.  Living the life of Scrooge is not a godly lifestyle.  It’s one thing to be frugal, but it’s another thing to be cheap.

“Elders who do their work well should be respected and paid well, especially those who work hard at both preaching and teaching.  For the Scripture says, ‘You must not muzzle an ox to keep it from eating as it treads out the grain.’ And in another place, ‘Those who work deserve their pay!’” (I Timothy 5:17-18)  Paul took to heart our verse today from Deuteronomy, quoting it twice in his writings.  Those who preach and teach the Word of God “should be respected and paid well” for their faithfulness to the work of God.  The old school of thought that a pastor only works one day a week is pure ignorance.  Most pastors serve their congregations six or seven days a week and are generous with their time almost to a fault.  How cruel it would be a muzzle them by not providing for their needs.

During the Christmas Season when the spirit of giving is in the air, as well as throughout the year, let’s remember with generous hearts those who serve us in so many different roles and those who minister to us.  I want to be like the new and improved Scrooge of Christmas morning but without the nocturnal visitors.  “Ever afterwards..it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.  May that be truly said of us!  And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!” (C. Dickens)

Moving Forward: I thank God today for the generous hearts that minister to me and bless my life.

Tomorrow @ Nehemiah 5-9

Deuteronomy 20-22 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is with us through every battle we face

My husband and I were thrilled with the opportunity some years ago to take a few days off after a busy summer.  We rented a cabin in the Tennessee Mountains and enjoyed lazy days and beautiful scenery.  One late afternoon we were grilling out on the deck and spotted an uninvited guest. A black bear smelled our delicious barbecue ribs and decided to join us.

Having read several books and seen movies about bears and their hunt for prey, I knew the most important thing was not to be afraid because the bear would smell my fear and could attack.  Well, needless to say, he smelled a lot more than ribs.  We ran in the cabin, slammed the glass door shut and locked it as if the bear would choose to try to open the door.  Fear can cause irrational behavior.  The bear walked around the deck for what seemed like an eternity, sniffed the ribs and peered in at this shaking woman and then sauntered down the steps and out of the yard.  I’m assuming his delicate palate was looking more for sushi than my ribs, and I just wasn’t worth the effort. Thank God! 

@ Deuteronomy 20
“When you go out to fight your enemies and you face horses and chariots and an army greater than your own, do not be afraid. The Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, is with you!” (1)  Whether we’re facing a battle right now or in the future, we can take the words of Moses with us as a source of encouragement.  As the Israelites looked at the strength of their adversary in their new land, it may have caused their knees to shake, but he encouraged them, “do not be afraid.”  David, the mighty warrior, often found himself facing the giants of the land but encouraged himself, “Some nations boast of their chariots and horses, but we boast in the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:7)  In the heat of the battle, we need to remember the Lord is our General and recall His faithful guidance in the past.

Moses then urged the officers of the army to release from battle all those who were distracted by the cares of this life. (5-7)  Focus is a powerful tool in our battle against the enemy as we follow our leader to victory, but distractions will change our focus and resolve.  Another concern of Moses was that of fear. “Is anyone here afraid or worried? If you are, you may go home before you frighten anyone else.” (8) Fortunately, my fear did not frighten my husband in our close encounter with a bear, perhaps because he was too busy videoing our dinner guest and laughing at me.  In a truly perilous situation, fear is contagious.  It can cause even the bravest of souls to lose heart, and it’s not helpful on the battlefront.

The advice Moses gave that day as the Israelites sat poised for victory in the Promised Land was advice that we should take to heart when we face any battle.  Whether it is in the area of our health, our relationships, our finances or anything, we should keep our focus on the Lord and remember His faithfulness.  We never should be afraid.  “Do not be afraid as you go out to fight your enemies today! Do not lose heart or panic or tremble before them. For the Lord your God is going with you! He will fight for you against your enemies, and He will give you victory!” (3-4)  Thank you, Moses. I needed that today! 

Moving Forward:  By His grace, I am focused, unafraid and ready to see what the Lord will do on my behalf today.

Tomorrow @ Nehemiah 1-4

Deuteronomy 16-19 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He expects us to guide and protect our children

Over the years I’ve spent time in large European cities where I have observed very young children on city streets, subways and tourist areas begging for money as the parent or guardian stands by to watch.  These children are mostly treated with disdain by those who pass by them, and it’s a heart-wrenching scene to watch.  It’s difficult to understand the willingness of parents to sacrifice their children in this cruel process, but then we have our own issues on this side of the big pond. One thing I know for certain is that God expects us to protect our children not exploit them. 

@ Deuteronomy 18
“When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, be very careful not to imitate the detestable customs of the nations living there.  For example, never sacrifice your son or daughter as a burnt offering.” (9-10)  Who would do such a despicable thing?  Well, mostly no one today, at least with an intention to do so.  We may not offer them as a burnt offering, but are we sacrificing them through our ignorance of the detestable customs and practices surrounding us?

 I’m always amazed by the television programming, movies, and music that youth, Christian and secular alike, digest each day.  Parents have complained through the years about their troubled teens that don’t follow the lifestyle they have lived out in front of them, but other influences are much more attractive and enticing than the day to day routines that parents are exhibiting.  To be sure, our godly modeling to our children is valuable, but we need to be attentive to what is captivating their attention through their media as well.

When we discover something in our child’s environment that appears to be questionable or something we just don’t know anything about, our best course of action is to check it out for ourselves and to be knowledgeable about it.  If we find something objectionable, a dialogue is much more effective than a declaration as a starting point and it keeps the doors of communication open for the future.  If our impressionable youth still does not accept our viewpoint, we may be tempted to let it go because it’s just easier to do so or because we’re afraid of the response that may come, but sacrificing them to the customs of this world just isn’t an option.

When we stick to our convictions, we can offer this resolution to our children:  In scripture, we understand that God expects children to obey their parents, and He really doesn’t provide a way around that.  If they disobey, God will deal with them.  However, if we as parents make an unreasonable demand or an inaccurate assessment that is not righteous, God will deal with us. As the child or youth waits for lighting to strike the parent for grave errors in judgment and the heat of the moment is gone, they often move on to yet another thing or are distracted by something else. The disagreement becomes a moot point.  In the process, offering a godly alternative is helpful although not always immediately appreciated.  Youth need our guidance whether they like it or not.  We do our part, but they are responsible for the decisions they make.

As parents, smothering is not our goal, but guidance and discipline are the responsibility God has given us according to a myriad of scriptures including, “Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)   There’s more than one way to sacrifice our children, and we don’t want to participate in any of them and end up with a millstone around our necks (Matthew 18).  Fortunately, we are not alone in raising our children if we submit to the guidance of the Holy Spirit every day and make certain that He is our first reaction to the challenges we face.

Moving Forward: I’m praying for parents who need God’s help today, believing that God will give them the resolve to follow through with their convictions with all the grace and wisdom He has to offer them. 

Tomorrow @ Ezra 6-10

Deuteronomy 13-15 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  When we honor Him with our tithe, He blesses us beyond measure

We enjoy honoring our friends for their birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, new births, graduations – the list seems endless.  These celebrations are little respites for each of us from our day-to-day lives as we are honored with cards and gifts.  I love finding just the perfect gift for a friend, something that shows that I have taken time and effort to give honor.  When I run into a store for a birthday card, my husband knows it is anything but a run.  He settles back for a good 15-20 minute wait because I am compelled to find the perfect card to honor my friend.  In the same way, I always want to do my best to bring the most perfect gifts to the Lord to honor and celebrate Him.

@ Deuteronomy 14
“You must set aside a tithe of your crops—one-tenth of all the crops you harvest each year.  Bring this tithe to the designated place of worship—the place the Lord your God chooses for His name to be honored.” (22-23)  It just makes sense to give our tithe at the designated place where we worship as long as His name is honored there.  I would never take my gift for the friend I am honoring to someone else’s celebration or throw it up in the air and hope it lands somewhere useful.

In Malachi, God cursed the people for neglecting their tithe – help – and instructed them, “’Bring all the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my Temple. If you do,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, ‘I will open the windows of heaven for you. I will pour out a blessing so great you won’t have enough room to take it in! Try it! Put me to the test!’” (Mal3:10) What a promise!  We give our tithe at the storehouse where we’re being fed so that the storehouse, our church, is able to provide all that is needed for the work of the Lord, and in return, we are abundantly blessed.  Well, I’ve tried it, I’ve tested it, and it works!

“Doing this will teach you always to fear the Lord your God.” (23)  Tithing doesn’t teach us to be afraid of the Lord, but this fear refers to reverence. Just like the gift for a friend, it is our opportunity to show honor and respect for the Lord.  A weekly or monthly tithe is a continual statement to the Lord that we honor Him with our provisions, the resources that keep food on the table and a roof over our heads. Our resources are meaningful and needful to us, yet we honor Him with them.

“Now when the Lord your God blesses you with a good harvest…”  (24) And isn’t this the bottom line?  All that we have, our provisions, are from His hand anyway.  Our tithe is our acknowledgment to Him that our income and resources come from His hand of blessing.

My tithe, my tenth, is a natural expression for me to show honor to the Lord. It is my continual gift to honor who He is to me and what He has done for me, and I could only bring it to a place of worship where I know He is honored and His work is carried out.  And believe me, in response to my giving, He has opened the windows of heaven for me, and He has blessed!

Moving Forward:  Today I am assured more than ever that I just can’t out-give God.  He always seems to outdo me because that’s just the way He is. 

Tomorrow @ Ezra 1-5

Deuteronomy 10-12 (NLT) 

Discover His heart:  He doesn’t force us to follow Him but desires that we choose to follow

I love telling my children about growing up in the dark ages – no Starbucks, no cell phones, no cable television.  Yes, I did walk a mile to school every day, uphill both ways, carrying my saxophone and schoolbooks, slipping and sliding on the icy Minneapolis sidewalks.  The only way a television channel got changed was if I got off the couch and changed it.  The first computer I saw was the size of a small room and just wouldn’t fit on a lap. I tell them these things hoping to receive praise for surviving such deprivation, but the response is usually one of disbelief.  I guess you just had to have been there.

And I love telling them about the day I asked Jesus into my heart.  The concept of Jesus in my heart was a little difficult for our daughter to understand at the age of three.  I was in the ninth month of pregnancy with our son when she stared at me one day with a quizzical look to the point where I finally asked, “Mandy, what is it?”  With all the innocence of three-year-old, she said, “Mommy, with Jesus in your heart and that baby in your tummy, it sure must be crowded in there!”  Well, at least she knew about Jesus. 

@ Deuteronomy 11
“You must love the Lord your God and obey all his requirements, decrees, regulations, and commands.  Keep in mind that I am not talking now to your children, who have never experienced the discipline of the Lord your God or seen his greatness and his strong hand and powerful arm…your children didn’t see how the Lord cared for you in the wilderness until you arrived here… But you have seen the Lord perform all these mighty deeds with your own eyes!  (1-2,5,7)  How will our children ever know what God has done in our lives unless we tell them?

I love telling my children about the price that was paid by my mom to pave the way for our salvation, and I love sharing the beautiful testimony of commitment to the ministry of their dad’s parents.  How will they ever know if we fail to tell them?

“Look, today I am giving you the choice between a blessing and a curse! You will be blessed if you obey the commands of the Lord your God that I am giving you today.  But you will be cursed if you reject the commands of the Lord your God and turn away from him and worship gods you have not known before.” (26-28)  The day came when my children, too, stood at the threshold of blessing and cursing.

Through our testimony, our children had a history to draw from, a precedent to help them examine and understand the faithfulness of God to their parents and ancestors.  I think it was helpful to them. Now they are grown and have chosen the blessing of God for their lives by obeying His commands.  The power of our testimony is far greater than we can imagine, but no one will know it unless we share it.

Moving Forward:  “I will sing of the mercies of the LORD for ever: with my mouth will I make known thy faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 89:1) 

Tomorrow @ 2 Chronicles 33-36

Deuteronomy 7-9 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He has adopted us as His very special treasure.

There’s nothing like being a part of a family.  Even with all of its ups and downs, black sheep and sibling rivalries, there are certain privileges afforded a family member that others are not given.  As long as we are a part of the family, we are provided with food, clothing, and shelter, and we are included in all the family gatherings such as family reunions, holidays and Will readings.

We don’t earn the right to be a part of the family by our good deeds or because we are perfect, but it is because our parents chose to bring life into the world.  Out of disobedience or rebellion, some have decided to leave the protection that the family provides, and they often end up living empty troubled lives, alone.  With the holidays just around the corner, I’m especially grateful for my family, and I want to protect it and all the privileges that come with it.  Oh, Israel, how could you desert the family!

Moses continued his instructions as the Israelites sat poised to enter the Promised Land and reminded God’s children of who their Father was, “For you are a holy people, who belong to the Lord your God. Of all the people on earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure.  The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations!  Rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you, and he was keeping the oath he had sworn to your ancestors.”(7:6-8)  And the Lord did not provide for His children because they were so good, “You must recognize that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land because you are good, for you are not—you are a stubborn people.” (9:6)  Ouch!

Moses also reminded the people of the responsibilities that came with being the children of God.  “Remember how the Lord your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands…He did it to teach you that people do not live by bread alone; rather, we live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord…Just as a parent disciplines a child, the Lord your God disciplines you for your own good.  So obey the commands of the Lord your God by walking in His ways and fearing Him.” (8:2-6)  Unfortunately, the Israelites did not accept every word that came from the mouth of the Lord and in their stubbornness and rebellion, most of them eventually deserted the family and left all the privileges that came with it.

Just like many childless fathers, God adopted or grafted in a new family, “But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree—some of the people of Israel—have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree.”(Romans 11:17)  I’m so thankful to be a part of the family!  However, because of His great love, God is like the prodigal’s father in Luke 15, who waits and waits for His lost children of Israel to come home and rejoin the family by accepting His Son.

We, too, need to remember the privileges we have received as members of the family of God.  Because of Jesus, we have become “joint heirs” in all that God has to offer His children.  We are God’s special treasure as well.  We did not receive His blessing because we are so good, but simply because He loves us.  With His love and all the privileges I receive as His child, I can’t imagine why I would ever desert my family. 

Moving Forward: I’m encouraged today to walk in the privileges provided for me as His child, to protect the family name through my behavior and never leave the safety of His love and care. 

Tomorrow @ 2 Chronicles 29-32

 

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